Northern Thailand, home to spicy cuisine, glittering Buddhist temples, and the venerable city of Chiang Mai. Presumably, many travellers head to the bustle of Bangkok, Thailands capitol and major metropolitan city. Chiang Mai however, is an enchanting area situated along a sleepy river, with the Doi Suthep National Park mountain peaks in the distance. Albeit a smaller city, this interior town is rich with culture and religious sites. With so much to see, having a prominent location within close proximation to the old city is ideal. Thankfully, the gorgeous Anantara Chiang Mai offered just that.
Set back, but still offering panoramic views of the Mae Ping River, the Anantara is a modern homage to colonial-era architecture, with purposeful Thai influence. The resort grounds, a former British overseas government outpost are comprised of a main building, constructed with superior ventilation and light reflection. Guests will feel just as relaxed on the Lobby Lounge’s window seats, which overlook shin-deep reflection pools, than their own private terrace. Rooms side saddle the main reception area, while a footpath over the road conjoins the serviced suites to the main resort property.
Though it is not even a six kilometres drive from Chiang Mai International Airport to Anantara Chiang Mai, reserving transport via the resort is worth the minimal extra expense. A dedicated resort chauffeur helped us with our luggage, offered us a deliciously scented hand towel, while simultaneously explaining cold beverages were kept in the cooler for our consumption. A resort iPad gave us a welcome letter and brief introduction to the property before our arrival, an ultramodern touch.
It wasn’t until we were shown to our serviced suite, that I truly understand what it means to say “I have arrived.” Two attendants awaited our entrance, kneeling before steaming foot-baths infused with lotus petals. The almost ceremonial foot ritual, a wash and massage must have only lasted less than ten minutes, but my goodness did this small gesture make such an impression. Or perhaps it was the stackable tins filled with small Thai snacks called, and daily fresh fruit bowl (complete with small descriptions for us Westerners who have never seen such delicacies) but the serviced suites felt more like a modern apartment with personal staff fit for royalty.
The decor mixes muted contemporary pieces amongst teak wood varietals. Framed silver Thai jewellery, and red subway bathroom riles within the serviced suites plays in harmony with the other room types offering 84 (+44 suites) serenely decorated accommodations for guests. Apartment style suites offer more options for sleeping arrangements, with the largest containing three separate bedrooms able to sleep 6 adults comfortably. The serviced suites also offer light cooking facilities, entertaining glassware, laundry facilities, and childcare services — a large plus for families traveling. By far the biggest benefit for travellers staying in the suites is the rooftop infinity pool, only available to suite stayers. A sunset drink atop of the building affords guests one of the best views in the area.
If you crave a bit more community, as we did, the resorts main pool faces the Mae Ping and is just as calming as watching the river itself. Flanked by wooden chaise lounges and living lotus plants, an afternoon by the Anantara pool is peace and play, only to be beat out by the Spa that sits just beyond the pool. The Spa’s back window runs the entire length of the pool offering a slightly elevated view of both the pool and river simultaneously. Even more comfortable than the outside chaise lounges are the spa’s wicker chairs that offer a quieter, climate controlled space, complete with a hot tea post-treatment. Thai massage is internationally renowned and something not to be missed. Anantara takes their care one step further by combining healing rituals from across Asia to deliver a unique experience while preserving traditional Thai wellness therapies.
Apart from physical relaxation, Anantara Chiang Mai may have a created a special place in my heart for craft cocktails due to the F & B program by Khun Reza. Nightly happy hours should be taken (you’re on vacation, free pass for indulging!) at the The Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar. A free standing colonial building oozes British heritage as it was formerly the British Consulate in Chiang Mai, opened in 1921. The resort pays homage to this time period in the building’s history, by recreating one facet of the time period: espionage. Fictitious spy paraphernalia adorns the shelves of teak bookcases, while secret doors open to a whiskey tasting room available at guest’s request. Leather chairs, turquoise touches, and truly inventive cocktails had us returning much too often, even by vacation standards. Dozens of cocktails containing fresh Thai ingredients all tip their hat to the British secret service; even the cocktail menu comes in a suspicious manilla envelope labeled Top Secret, for the full effect.
Dining and activities come close second to the superior beverage program. An incredibly vast morning breakfast buffet entertains guests palates from all corners of Asia, while also fully accommodating religious and special dietary needs with great variety. Take advantage of the Kanom Krok, a small Thai coconut pancake popular amongst street food vendors, or perhaps the spicy northern Thai sausage famous to the region. Morning indulgences can get worked off either at the state of the art Gym, or take a Muay Thai class, Thailand’s dedicated combat sport.
If you’re seeking a bit more culture take part in one of the best tours in Chiang Mai, Streetwise Guru. A personal tour of the old moated city, complete with full historical recaps, Wat Chedi Luang Temple, Warorot and JJ Market meanderings, and an authentic Northern Thai lunch with some of the best Khoa Soi Noodles in Chiang Mai. Your half day will feel like a week’s worth of excursions, and your camera’s memory card will be the proof. Personalised to your likeness, this tour exudes the modernity and service the Anantara Chiang Mai offers. If you need some time away from sipping passionfruit infused cocktails by the pool, than you must try this enriching experience.